Arrested: What To Do When Your Loved One Is In Jail, by Wes Denham
This book is surprisingly entertaining. Generally speaking, jail is not a very funny subject, although plenty of comedies play on the fears that jail and prison bring. This book is written by an author based in the Jacksonville, Florida area and is written to the families of those who caught up in jail and dealing with the concerns of their family member with the assumption that he (or she) is in trouble for good reason and seeking to determine how much should be spent and what actions should be done in coping with the experience and in encouraging the offender to straighten up and fly right. The comic aspects of this book consist in the author’s thesis that most criminals belong to a pre-moral class of people who are unsocialized and live according to their urges and simply lack experience and insight into the need to restrain those urges for their best interests. The author expresses a great deal of frustration and shares a lot of stories from his own experience in life as well as his experiences in dealing with other members of the criminal class who have found it difficult to cope with the straight life.
This book is about 250 pages or so and is divided into 27 chapters and various supplementary material. The author begins with the late-night phone calls that let relatives know that a loved one is in jail (1), and that the road to freedom is a difficult one (2). He encourages the family to act like detectives in getting important information (3), how to clean one’s house, car, and computer before warrants arrive (4), and gives information on jail visits (5) and life in jail (6) and the medical care that can be found there (7) as well as commissaries (8) and the problem of sex in jail (9). The author forthrightly discusses drug addiction (10), unsocialization (11), recognizing a readiness on the part of the offender to change (12), and the character factories to help socialize (13). The author discusses how to rate defendants on the extent one should help them (14), bail and bail bonds (15), public defenders (16), the dark side of defense lawyers (17), how to find good private attorneys (18), quoting for services (19), and negotiating legal contracts (20). The author talks about how to help the defense (21), budgeting (22), dealing with probation and parole (23), and discussing the problems of snitching (24), which often requires a personal witness protection program in response (25), the family management plan (25), and looking at the stats of imprisonment (26), after which there are three appendices that provide information about forms and letters, disputing credit card charges, and a dictionary of crime and punishment.
This book may be figured as straight talk for families who often enable their criminal relatives but can serve to socialize and provide the supportive network that people need to acquire what the author considers to be the middle-class values of honesty, reliability, and self-control. There are various sheets in here that provide ways that families can communicate through mail with their prisoner relative, vet potential lawyers to see if they are worth spending money on, or can engage in ways to help the offender integrate with culture and stay safe and free. The author is gung-ho about offenders who are willing to join the military and devote themselves to socialization through basic training, and is shrewd and canny about how to overcome the temptations that lead people to a revolving door relationship with the prison system. And yet, as might be expected, all the humor is really in the service is getting families to do the hard work of holding their criminal kin responsible for living in such a way that they do not give the police any reason to stop them, search them, and arrest them, pointing out that while society has become increasingly permissive, the law has become increasingly restrictive, with dangerous consequences for those who run afoul of it.